(FILES) This file photo taken on February 9, 2017 shows US President Donald Trump alongside US Attorney General Jeff Sessions after Sessions was sworn in as...
SAUL LOEB

The odd rationale behind Trump’s ongoing ‘rift’ with Sessions

Donald Trump has spent much of the year furious with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president has mocked, berated, and chastised the Alabama Republican, and even expressed regret for choosing him to oversee the Justice Department, stemming from Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the investigation into the Russia scandal.

In May, Trump reportedly blamed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment on Sessions, condemned the attorney general’s “disloyalty,” called him an “idiot,” and said Sessions should resign. The attorney general reportedly sent a resignation letter to the White House soon after, and told associates “the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.” (Trump aides talked him out of accepting Sessions’ resignation.)

Has the relationship improved? At least publicly, it’s been a while since Trump upbraided Sessions – perhaps because the attorney general has taken steps the president likes – though the Associated Press reported yesterday that the rift between the two Republicans remains.

Exactly one week before the raid [on Paul Manafort’s home], Trump sat in the Oval Office with reporters from The New York Times and, with little prompting, veered into an attack on his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Trump blasted Sessions, once one of his closest allies, for recusing himself from the Russia probe, believing that helped lead to Mueller’s appointment.

Trump continued his assault in a series of tweets in which he called Sessions “weak” and “beleaguered.” Privately, he discussed firing Sessions, but was met with a wave of resistance from his advisers. Some warned it would worsen the Russia probe, while Bannon told the president it would hurt with his base supporters, who loved Sessions’ tough-on-crime approach at the Justice Department.

Kelly, in his first weekend on the job, called Sessions to assure him his position was safe. But the rift between Trump and Sessions still has not healed. Recently, Trump bemoaned the Republicans’ loss in a special election in Alabama and in part blamed Sessions, whose departure from the Senate to head to Justice necessitated the election.

It’s that last sentence that stands out.

Let’s follow the logic on this one: Sessions gave up his Senate seat to become attorney general, which created a vacancy, which led to a special election, which led to an unexpected Democratic victory and a smaller Republican majority.

It makes sense for the president to be unhappy about this – especially after Trump managed to twice support failing candidates in the same red-state contest – but it doesn’t make sense for the president to blame Sessions.

After all, it was Trump who offered Sessions the opportunity to join the White House cabinet. If the AP’s reporting is accurate, the president would be better off blaming himself – because if he’d left Sessions where he was, Doug Jones wouldn’t be headed to Capitol Hill.